Q. Facebook’s telling me I’ve checked into a restaurant I’ve never visited and wants me to review it. How could that happen?
A. This looks like a case of Facebook’s efforts to get local businesses to market themselves on the social network intersecting badly with its database of places.
Specifically, Facebook isn’t quite set up to deal with an establishment’s Facebook page outliving its real-world location, then being used to advertise a new project from the old business’s owners at a different location.
From their perspective, that sort of recycling makes sense: Why would you want to start your Facebook marketing from zero when you already have an active page that hundreds or thousands of people have liked, checked in at, or reviewed?
Indeed, Facebook assures local businesses that if they move, they won’t lose their existing reviews and ratings.
The only restriction Facebook places on page reincarnations applies to a page’s username–not the title on the page itself, but the part of the Web address to the right of “facebook.com.” You can only change that part once.
If you look at the page in question — formerly for a restaurant in Arlington, Va., called Tallula, now representing an upcoming eatery in Washington called Hazel–there’s not much mystery to this. It lists the address of the new place, but if you scroll down far enough you can see posts from the old one, including the announcement of its closure that dismayed me and many other D.C. diners.
The same change is on display at the Twitter account that went dark for a few months, then came back to life in January with a new name.
Facebook’s system, however, seems to see only the one page and not its complete redo, so it invites people who checked in there before to write a review of a place that hasn’t opened yet. And local businesses can’t control when Facebook sends those prompts.
Facebook’s policy is to notify people who have liked a page if that business significantly changes the page’s name–with a seven-day grace period after the name change in which their endorsement is hidden.
People who have checked in at the establishment, however, don’t get the same notification. Facebook plans to give those users the option of editing those old check-ins after a place reinvents its identity.
Keeping social-media representations of physical places current can be difficult all around. Sometimes, place-finding apps can be no more accurate than a year-old guidebook.
For example, while Yelp correctly shows the old restaurant Tallula as closed, Foursquare does not. Because I am a public-minded user of social media, I filed a suggested edit to note its defunct status.
Tip: Don’t ignore Facebook’s privacy checkup
As I was writing this, the Facebook app on my phone popped up a “Privacy Checkup” notice, illustrated with a blue dinosaur, to suggest I review my privacy settings.
I was about to dismiss that request, then changed my mind and was glad I did when it revealed I’d left some contact information visible that I didn’t need to share–and had a bunch of old apps that I’d stopped using long ago. With a few taps, I removed those relics.
You should get a Privacy Checkup notice every now and then, but you can also request one on its desktop site by clicking the “Privacy Shortcuts” lock-icon menu in the toolbar.
It appears that most Facebook users find this reminder useful. At the Privacy Identity Innovation conference in Palo Alto, Calif., last November, Facebook product manager Paddy Underwood said 86 percent of people who had started Privacy Checkup completed it.
And what’s up with the blue dinosaur? Explained Underwood: “It helped make the experience a little more approachable and a little more engaging.”
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